Monday, July 30, 2012

Keeping Calm

(Written on Sunday, posted on Monday.  I compressed the pictures so much because of our slow internet speed, so if they seem a little blurry, they isn't a problem with your eyes!)

"Keep Calm and Carry On"....this expression was first used in a poster in 1939 as a reminder to the British people who were being attacked by Germany to keep calm and carry on. Few of the posters were printed, so the saying was little known. The expression has had a resurgence in popularity starting in 2000 when some of the original posters were found. It can now be seen all over the internet, on posters, and on mugs such as this one that I bought when I was in Oxford in April.

Probably it is popular, because it is a good reminder when life is crazy to just keep calm and carry on, not panic and freak out.  By personality, I am the type of person who does this quite naturally.  A lot of drama just isn't my style.  But life gets crazy sometimes for even me and this week was definitely a crazy one!

Since arriving back, we have had nine new arrivals.  Another family and a single gal arrived early this morning and another family is on this afternoon's flight.  Next Sunday we will get another couple, and later in the week, three more single girls.

All of these arrivals mean lots of paperwork and orientation for me.  But it also involves setting up housing for all those living here in the city.  Now, I want it to be said right here, that comparatively speaking,  I have done very little of the housing set-up.  My co-worker is the one who does most of that.  Two ladies at the school (most of our new arrivals are teachers) helped her a lot and they got their teen-age sons and some other men to help with moving furniture.   But when my co-worker asked for a few days R&R, I knew she DEFINITELY deserved it, so it was granted.  I told her that I would take care of setting up the two places that still needed work. 

When I said that, it didn't look like it would be too much work.  So I went to one place to set up and upon arrival I discovered that there was no way to lock the gate from the outside.  So that means when nobody is home or in the compound, the gate is wide open for the entire world to go in and out if they so desire.  That required a phone call to the handyman we hire for such things.  The gate was really a mess, so it took some creative thinking on his part to make a lock that would work from the outside.

I then went to work in the house, making the bed, hanging shower curtains, tidying things up, etc. when I realized that we had failed to put any dishes in that house.  So that entailed another trip to the storage container to find dishes.  And I must explain that dishes that have been in storage here are not automatically ready to go in the cupboard!  First a heavy layer of dust must be washed off, so I ended up washing all the dishes first.

The second place I needed to work on was pretty much ready to go.  The painters had been there and hadn't moved any furniture back, but the man I had hired to clean and I moved it back.  Then I went to hang up the curtains in the bedroom and realized I had a problem.  There were a set of curtains with tabs, but they were too narrow to fully cover the window.  There was another curtain of a contrasting fabric, but it was only one wide panel, again, not wide enough to cover the window.  Not only that, but it had also been made in a different style with curtain rings at the top instead of tabs.

Well, says I, maybe I can cut cloth off of one of the pieces and make tabs for the ring curtain and re-fashion it.  But that was when I discovered I would need all the curtain parts to cover the window and there were no extra bits to lop off one and sew on another.  Then I decided to go to the fabric store and see if I could find something in the same color family to make tabs for the curtain.....and to add length because I discovered the one piece was shorter than the other two pieces.  

So off to Big Boss I went.  I took the curtain along and showed it to them and asked if they had anything that would match.  Hmmmmm, they didn't seem to know and the guy disappeared with my curtain (I found out he'd gone to another store to look).  Meanwhile I wandered through the three rooms of the store.  It's hard to describe this store, but there are rolls of fabric leaning on the wall, in places five bolts deep and two high.  Tables are stacked with pieces of cloth.  They have a lot of choice there and it is mostly upholstery and curtain fabric.  But because there is so much in there it is hard for me to focus on what I'm looking for.  I made it to the third room and there, lo and behold!, was the exact cloth I was looking for!  I couldn't believe it because we've had this set of bedspread and curtains for a LONG time.  I bought a meter of it and headed home to begin my simple task of re-fashioning the curtains.

My sister stumbled across a blog that's really interesting that's called Refashionista.  Every day this lady takes an ugly outfit she gets at thrift stores (op shops, charity shops) and refashions it into a new outfit which she actually wears.  So I figured if she can do it with clothes, I can do it with curtains.  Ha! Ha!  For one thing, I didn't really have a lot of spare time to be sewing.  For another thing, everything always takes me longer than I expect.  And then there's the fact that things are always harder than they first appear.

To start with, I removed the rings from the big piece of cloth.  Then I cut that piece in half so I would now have two panels.  Next, I cut a piece from the new cloth and added it on for length.  Then I had to hem the new piece plus the sides where I had cut it.  I was going to make the part that had the rings be the top, but in the end I decided to flip it around and make that the bottom.  The next thing to do was to cut another piece from the new fabric and sew tabs.
Making the tabs

This takes a fair bit of measuring, ironing, and sewing.  But my biggest challenge came when I went to sew the tabs on the curtains.  My machine is pretty wimpy and won't go through multiple heavy layers at all.  This cloth is sturdy cloth and sewing two pieces together wasn't a problem.  But by the time I had the tabs sewn and pinned on, I had six layers of cloth in some places and my machine just wouldn't do it.  So I ended up sewing all the tabs on by hand.

After all my work, I still wasn't convinced it was going to look that good.  I mean I now had four curtain panels, but they were in two different prints and one of the prints now had an added-on piece and tabs sewed on that were not the same print as that curtain.  I held my breath when I put them up.....they fit AND they looked good!

I also took this ugly chair from the living room.  It looks like somebody meant to reupholster it and never got around to it.  There will be two ladies living in this apartment and they each have their own room.  The other room had an easy chair in it and I wanted this room to have one, too, so that each lady has a comfortable place in her room to chill when they just want to be alone.  So I hemmed up the extra cloth I had left and laid it on the chair and it looks pretty good! (Saying I hemmed it is a stretch....I folded the edges over and zig-zagged them to keep them from fraying).

Oh yes, and I realized the dishes and pans had been put in the cupboards, but never washed.  Normally I would ask the person we hire to clean to do that, but neither of us realized in time that they needed to be washed.  So I washed another entire set of dishes, tupperware, and pans.

So, there have definitely been moments of panic this week!  I tried to remind myself to keep calm and carry on!  And it all got done (but you should see the mess of papers on my desk!). I was exhausted by Friday night and slept 10 hours straight and during church today it was hard to not just sit there and think about having a nap this afternoon!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Christ is All I Need

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here at The Gypsy Mama and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:::


The year was 1992.  We moved with our three-year old son and our one-year old daughter to a large town that had no electricity and few amenities.  When we arrived, it is probably safe to say there were no Christians indigenous to the town.  In fact, the general perception of Christians was that they smoked, got drunk, and lived immoral lives.  That's what they saw westerners doing on TV and westerners are "Christians", so that's a Christian for you.

Through the years we got to know many people.  Little by little people began to trust us.  Faithfully we reached out with the Gospel.  We ran a famine relief project.  Then in 2001, six men came to my husband and said they wanted to study the Bible.

As he opened the pages of Scripture to them, they began understanding the Word of God.  One by one they said they wanted to follow Christ.  Several of them came every Sunday morning for worship as well as for the weekly Bible study.  Soon they reported to us that local religious teachers were sitting under the tree down the street on Sunday mornings watching who came in and who went out.  Still, they let their children and their wives come to Bible storying times I started for them.  In fact, neighbors who weren't believers brought their children to be taught, saying they knew we would not corrupt them.

Then we went to the US for a year.  During that time, their families really began to harass them.  Their families threatened to not give them a portion of the crops they helped raise.  Their families said they could do anything they wanted to them since they were no longer one of them.  Their families said if they died nobody would bury them.

And when we came back a year later, they had all fallen away.  Do they still believe in their hearts?  We do not know.  They are friendly to us, but seem no longer interested.  We were crushed.  We felt like total, absolute failures.

Sixteen years and nothing.  No church.  No believers.  An empty piece of land on which to build a church.  Nothing.

In college I had glibly sung, "Christ is all I need", a favorite chorus of our president.  I believed it on an intellectual level.  But now I found myself asking myself, "Is Christ really all I need?  Or do I need success?  Do I need something to show for all my work?  Is Jesus really enough?"

Tough questions.    But I'm more at peace, more able to acknowledge that Christ used us, maybe not even to plant, but to prepare the soil.  Now, it's not just an intellectual assertion, it's something I believe.  And yes, there are days I lose my focus, but Christ is enough.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The 4th of July

 Daniel and Kelly were married in Iowa, which is quite a long ways from Arlington, VA.  We had decided even before they were married that we would load up our car in Iowa with their wedding gifts and then go visit them in Arlington.  We thought that going down for July 4 would be great....they'd be back from their honeymoon and we could see the parade and fireworks in Washington DC.

The day they arrived home they were without power due to a storm and they were without power for over 48 hours.  We decided to stay with the plan even though when we left Ohio they still didn't have power.  Thankfully it came on before we got there.  But they hadn't had a chance to get organized or unpacked or even to buy food.  In fact, they ended up throwing out everything that they did have in the fridge because it went bad.  They hadn't even stayed in their 3rd floor apartment because it was too hot.  For anybody reading this who doesn't live in the eastern part of the United States, this past week has been HOT....even by Niger standards.

We felt bad about arriving when they hadn't had a chance to even live in their apartment yet.  But they were gracious and we had a great time!  When we arrived we walked down the street to a restaurant for supper, then we went grocery shopping. Later that evening
Daniel's cousin, Jacob, made this plaque.
they opened their wedding gifts that we had brought them. This is the quilt I made for them and got finished just in time.

The next day we took the Metro in to Washington DC.  We got off at the Archives stop and went and found a place on the steps of the National Archives building from which to watch the parade. It was a pretty good parade, but it didn't have a lot of floats or anything.  A lot of high school marching bands were in it, which would be a huge honor for any high school.  This was one of my favorite things in the parade. These men stayed motionless all the time and you could hardly tell that they were real people.

Did I mention that it was HOT?  We had taken two large bottles of water and some Gatorade and had drunk all of it before the parade was over.  But no were pushing carts up and down the street selling cold water.  This man was so funny. He'd say things like, "Stop your crying.  Just buy cold water."  or "You'd better buy now because I won't come back."  But of course he'd come back.  The man to the right of him was a little nuts.  He would go up to random people and just start talking to them, but he was obviously trying to start arguments.

After the parade, we went to the mall and found a shady tree to have our picnic lunch we had brought with us.  We were out of water so we bought Cokes from a nearby vendor.  They were $2.50 for a 20 ounce bottle.  Ridiculous, but it sure tasted good!

From there we went to the National Arboretum and explored there for awhile. We just took our time and sat on benches whenever we found a cool spot.

The Arboretum is right by the Capitol building and when we went out, we discovered that Philip Philips, the recent winner of American Idol, would be in concert there that night.  We didn't know when it started or anything, so we went through security and went in to the cordoned off area in front of the capitol.  We discovered the concert would be later that evening, but we got to see him practising one of his songs. Since were were there we sat under a tree for awhile.  We also got some bottles of free water they were giving out.  Did I mention that it was hot?
Soon we decided to go to the area in front of the White House to find a place from which we could watch the fireworks.  On the way there we went past this mister truck that was spraying mist in the air. The looks on the faces of people when they saw it was great.  You could see, "Ahhhhh, relief!" written all over them.

We sat in the shade for was hot, remember?  Then Daniel and John went off and bought us some hot dogs for supper.  After we ate, Daniel and John decided they wanted to go see the World War II memorial, so off they went.  Before long they were back saying they couldn't get to it because that was where they were shooting off the fireworks from.  But they said we should go through security and get into the area around the Washington Monument that was cordoned off.  So we moved again and found a pretty good spot.  Later when I went to the port-a-john I discovered that there would have been an even better spot where we could have seen the Lincoln and Jefferson monuments as well as the fireworks.

The fireworks were spectacular and a lot of fun to watch.  At the end especially, when they did the grand finale, you could just feel the fireworks booming along the ground and right through your body. 

The next adventure was to take the Metro home.  We went to the nearest station and tons of people were already thronging around it.  They would only let in a few people at a time, so the "line" was really a throng of hot, sweaty people.  There wasn't much air moving, so we were getting hotter and sweatier by the minute.  Every time they would let more people through, we would move forward three to five steps.  At one point people jumped the line and jumped over the turnstiles.  The police got them and sent them back out.  The crowd cheered when they got sent out!  Finally we got into the station and down to the trains.  It felt so cool down there!  But every train that came was packed.  I don't know where the people had already gotten on at, but there was no way we could get on.  Finally a train came that had a little room the four of us could squeeze in.  Every time the train stopped, only a few people would get off and a ton more would get on.  I can not even describe how awful it was.  We were standing body to body, there was no AC or if there was you couldn't tell, sweat was pouring off of everybody, and it felt like a heat index of about 130 degrees.  I don't know how it was that nobody passed out.  Most people were joking and making light of it but then a lady and her 9-year old son got on.  I told them there was no room, but her husband made her get on and said he and the other son would meet them at the hotel.  They were panicking and getting everybody uptight.  The boy kept saying, "I'm going to kill myself."  How sad is that?  Where did a 9 year old boy get that from?  At one point more people were trying to get on and she said, "Don't let anybody else on!"  I just thought, "Lady, you got on when there was no more room and now you don't want anybody else to get on."  I was SOOOOO happy when we finally arrived at our stop.  It took us an hour and a half to get from the Washington Monument area back to Pentagon City.  Once there we had to wait for a bus.  It was taking an awfully long time to come, so we decided to walk home.  It was midnight before we got home, took showers, and dropped into bed exhausted.

It was a great day, and aside from the train ride, a lot of fun.  I'm glad I was able to be there for the fireworks, but another year,if it were me, I'd go to a parking lot we found near their apartment that has a perfect view of where the fireworks would be.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Story....New Books and New Chapters

 Five Minute Friday at TheGypsyMama


I like to think of each person's life as a story.  Each new adventure is a chapter in the book.  My story started in 1959.  Some of my chapters have been "Growing up in Africa", "Coming to Know Christ", "Moving to America", "Living in Four Different States", "Going to College", "Missionary to Kids in Nigeria", "Getting Married", "Having Kids", "Ministering in Small Town Niger", and the latest "Becoming a Mother-in-Law".

Mingled in with my story have been my husband's stories and my kids' stories.  For almost 26 years John's and my stories have shared chapters.  For 23 years Daniel's story has also been partly our story and for 21 years Suzanne's story has been partly ours.

Now their story lines will diverge from mine.  It's been fun helping the newly-weds set up their apartments and to spend time with them as they begin their chapter called "Married Life".  I'm excited that both Suzanne and Kelly have blogs so I can follow along in the chapters of their lives.
Helping Suzanne and Theo set up their furnished apartment
We were able to loan Daniel and Kelly this Turkish rug
and to give them some furniture for their apartment

On Fridays a group of folk meet here for a free writing exercise.
Just 5 minutes. On the prompt that’s posted here just after midnight early Friday morning. Want to know more – check out the Five Minute Friday back story over here.
And every week I feature a favorite Five Minute Friday post by one of you over there in my side bar. It never ceases to amaze me the creative collaboration that can come from all of us writing on just one word.
Want to join our favorite free writing exercise of the week? It’s easy peasy:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat on the prompt: “Story” with no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:  Story::